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William J. Bennett

Dear Bill:

The exposure of your addiction to gambling couldn’t have made me happier. Not because I like to read from my perch here in Heaven about the suffering of men, but because you, and others like you, help keep my theory alive. You know, ten years or so ago, Time Magazine, that venerable institution of American culture, declared me dead. And the Library of Congress, a truly venerable institution, had to shut down an exhibit on me for years while it figured out a way to appease feminists and gays who called me irrelevant (like your President says about the U.N. now) and politically incorrect (like Trent Lott-and while I am on the subject, why isn’t that Rick Santorum politically incorrect? At least I tried to understand homosexuality, not condemn it).

Pardon the historical digression. I have a lot of pent-up anger myself at how my name and theories have been abused over the years. But that brings me back to my point. That New York Times story about you! Now, that was a story I could sink my teeth into, so to speak. I always figured there was a lot of pent up sexuality in your past. That goes without saying given your extreme need to get on your moral soap box and condemn everyone who is not in your political camp. And you have that grim, tight visage like another man with serious problems, John Ashcroft (no, I am not going there, not now, anyway).

Let him who is without sin, as the Christians say, cast the first stone. And that sure isn’t you! You are right up there with the best of the men whose fragile egos resort to extreme measures to protect them from having to realize that they are just like anybody else. Riddled with doubts, insecurities, and aggressive and sexual impulses that are hidden behind starched white shirts, blue suits, club ties, and Republican respectability.

You channeled your more potentially self-destructive impulses into the more socially accepted pastime of gambling (a process I referred to as sublimation). Now, there’s an addiction for you! Funny that you rationalize your addiction to gambling (remember that term I coined for the irrational justification of behavior?) by saying it is like drinking. But of course, like compulsive drinkers and gamblers, you are in deep denial. Neither of these mechanisms are your fault, mind you. You don’t even know you are rationalizing and denying. That is what your fragile ego is doing for you. Got to save face, you know. Not content with rationalizing and denying, your ego then set you up for projecting. Recall, from your Psychology 101 course (I am sure you had one somewhere in your elite educational past), that projection is when you put your evil and immoral impulses onto others, while holding yourself out as the moral compass of the Western world. You are no better than Jimmy Swaggert and Jim Baker-they just acted out sexually (and I don’t have enough data to speak to your sexual issues, here, Bill).

But, like Swaggert and Baker, there are some holes in your self-justification. In some states, you know, gambling is illegal. Did you know that? I mean you wouldn’t be betting and losing tens of thousands in a casino in Virginia, no way. Just because you get away with it in that town without a moral compass, Las Vegas, doesn’t make it right. I mean, you and your buddies preach moral absolutes, based on Biblical principles. No place for situational morality here, Bill.

Moreover, your apologists say that your gambling is between you, your wife (not sure about that one!), and your accountant. Where does that kind of justification come from? I mean you would be the first to jump on states that don’t think smoking weed should be a capital offense. So don’t go justifying your greedy impulses by saying you do it only in Las Vegas. Why, I read that you and a couple of notorious Supreme Court justices engage in friendly poker matches. Why is “friendly” poker any more legal than sex among friends that Rick Santorum thinks is analogous to child molestation (now, Rick, he is next on my list. That guy has serious problems.)?

All a matter of perspective, you say. You are not hurting anyone, you say, You can afford the losses, you say. How come reasoning does not extend to sexual and drug offenses that you find so reprehensible? Want a little quick and dirty insight? It is that fragile ego thing again, along with a good dose of American machismo. You have to be better than somebody, or you risk realizing that you are just a nobody. A nobody from the standpoint of ego strength and insight into your own behavior, Bill.

Sorry if I seem to be hard on you. If I had the opportunity to have you on the couch for a year’s worth of three-times-a-week sessions, I could have let you get to the bottom of your problem. But I just had to use your situation to try to better my position in the history of psychology-see, Bill, I am a lot like you. Hell, we are all like you in our own way. Too bad you cannot see that and show a little empathy like my friend Carl Rogers wrote about. I am sure you must have heard of him. If not, look him up in that extensive library of yours.

Well, I have to close now. Though I have all the time in the world left up here, I have a lot of thinking and writing to do. First Rick Santorum, and his sexual issues and then Bush and Rumsfeld and their lust for blood that is getting down right scary for one who lived though the madness of Hitler. When I get them figured out, I have got to devote some serious time to John Ashcroft. He reminds me a lot of you, come to think of it.

Sincerely yours,




ELAINE CASSEL teaches psychology and law, and has written a textbook on criminal behavior. In her more serious moments, she writes about psycholegal issues for FindLaw and CounterPunch and maintains a web site devoted to the “other war” on civil liberties. She can be reached at:


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